Think twice before drinking Red Bull

Aabha Gopan

Red Bull is an energy drink, a quick booster of mental and physical performance. The brand sold 7.9 billion cans worldwide in 2020 and makes up around 24.6 percent of the energy drinks market in the US. In fact, it generated a sales of over 1.3 billion US dollars in 2020.

Despite a strong fanbase, Red Bull is criticized as unhealthy by many.

It was previously banned in countries like France, Denmark, and Norway for years. Moreover, it's sales is still restricted to adults (above 18 years) in Lithuania and Latvia.

Is Red Bull healthy? If not, how unhealthy is it?

To find the answer to that, let’s explore the ingredients in Red Bull and look into its nutrient composition.

Nutrient Composition and Ingredients

Although Red Bull has quite a few ingredients, we can classify them into five main groups.

The prominent ingredients in Red Bull are caffeine, taurine, B-group vitamins, sugars, and water. Since they source water locally from production sites, we won't be talking about that.

Caffeine

Caffeine — the infamous charmer in coffee, tea, and chocolates — is a natural stimulant.

What’s a stimulant?

Stimulant is a chemical that increases activity in the body, mainly the central nervous system (CNS) and the brain. These compounds excite them and increases the traveling speed of messages throughout the body. This means that you'll feel more energized and alert after having a stimulant like caffeine.

On the outside, caffeine might give you superpowers like extra energy and vigilance. But, on the inside, it makes your heart beat faster, increasing blood pressure.

This could be fatal for people with heart diseases as it increases the chances of stroke. Caffeine could also aggravate conditions like anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, bleeding disorders, and more.

To be on the safe side, you shouldn’t have more than 400 mg of caffeine a day, according to FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

But a Red Bull (250 ml) can has 80 mg of caffeine, more than 355 ml of diet coke or 100 g of dark chocolate.

Although this is a small amount, you must remember that caffeine is used widely in the food industry and you'll most likely have more than 2–3 caffeinated products a day.

This could lead to excessive caffeine intake. While such an overdose once in a while might not do you bad, it could cause long-term effects like insomnia, constant anxiety, and stomach problems.

Red Bull has safe amounts of caffeine. But anyone who has two or more cups of strong coffee along with Red Bull could suffer from caffeine overdose. This is especially true for children and pregnant women — who shouldn’t have more than 300 g of caffeine a day.

Taurine

There are many rumors surrounding Taurine — which has been proven safe now.

Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid, the building block of protein. It's usually found naturally in meat, fish, and egg, and doesn’t negatively affect the body.

Surprisingly, it can help promote healthy metabolism, protect eyes and heart, and help those suffering from health conditions like diabetes.

However, only few studies are conducted on taurine and our knowledge is limited.

B-group Vitamins

Red Bull has only water-soluble B-group vitamins. These include folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.

This means that the vitamins from the energy drink won’t accumulate in the body. Therefore, we can say it doesn’t pose any health risks.

Sugar

Sugar is a well-known carbohydrate that’s frightened by some and admired by others due to its effects on the body. It’s found in everyday packaged food products like bread, cake, chocolate, soft drinks, and more.

You'll also find sugars in natural products like fruits and vegetables. But these sugars — from natural sources — are healthier because they give the body vitamins and energy.

Also, natural sugars are digested slowly, unlike added sugars. Therefore, natural sugars stabilize your metabolism.

To know more about added sugars, click here.

A 250 ml can of Red Bull supplies around 27 g of sugar. Ideally, a woman or child shouldn’t have more than 24 g of sugar a day; And its best a man has only 36 g daily.

This means that having Red Bull can almost fill up your daily sugar quota. It'll make you more prone to excess sugar consumption.

Having more sugar can cause:

A can of Red Bull is rich in sugar and can exhaust your maximum daily intake limit. Any excess sugar you consume will mostly be stored away as fat.

In addition to these, there are other issues surrounding Red Bull.

Other Concerns

1. Mixing Red Bull with Alcohol

Young adults and college students drink Red Bull and alcohol together to decrease the intensity of drunkness. The combination can make you feel less intoxicated even while experiencing alcohol-related impairment. The caffeine in the energy drink overrides the depressive effects of alcohol, letting them consume more.

This increases the chances of drunk-drive cases and other injuries.

Additionally, a study conducted on 403 Australian adults reported that those who drank energy drinks mixed with alcohol were six times more likely to experience heart palpitations.

2. Increasing Intake Among Children and Teenagers

Experts say teenagers shouldn’t have more than 100 g of caffeine a day and the limit for children is 1.14 mg of caffeine per pound. Due to high caffeine content in Red Bull, it's considered dangerous to children and teenagers. They may easily get addicted to caffeine, negatively affecting their brain and heart.

But according to a study by Marin Institute, an alarming 31 percent of children aged between 12 and 17 regularly consume energy drinks like Red Bull. The wide availability of energy drinks may further increase the count of children and teenagers consumers.

The Verdict

Red Bull can deliver higher brain and physical function and help you work when you’re tired. It'll also assist combat fatigue while enhancing alertness and energy levels.

But consuming it regularly or in excess can cause addiction and sleep deprivation due to caffeine, along with obesity, diabetes, and other issues because of high sugar.

Therefore, you need to control its consumption.

Ensure that you drink not more than 250 ml a day — if you have it on a daily basis. If you drink Red Bull only once in a while, there’s nothing to worry about.

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